Down by 27 points, midway through the third quarter, the Miami Heat simply woke up a little later than usual to add another win to their franchise record winning streak, now improved to 24 games, as he orchestrated an impressive comeback, capped off with a triple double that gave us and everyone else another reason to set him apart from the rest of the NBA.
Fourth MVP in five years? Hard to see how not, after a second half performance like this. James finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks, overcoming a bad shooting day (8-22) in an arena in which he always gets booed a bit louder than in other places, which isn’t stopping the rumor mill from talking about him returning to the Cavs in 2014. Meanwhile, he simply enjoys beating them, leading the Heat to a 98-95 win.
Ray Allen was also there to lend a helping hand, scoring 10 points, including three tres in the final quarter to show once again that he, like the rest of the team, might be sleepwalking through an entire evening of basketball, but everything starts looking different for him once the fourth quarter begins. And if the Miami Heat still needed to prove anything about their clutchness to anyone, another tight win on the road shut up the last of the doubters.
And the Heat virtually had no chance of coming back: in the last 15 seasons, teams trailing by 27 or more in the second half were 5 and 2,013, a win percentage of .002. That means it happens once every 404 games. The Heat themselves were 0-55 before this game in this kind of situation over the last decade and a half. It’s weird to see a team play so drastically different in one half compared with the other, but it’s hard to fathom how a team down 67-40 with 7:44 left in the third quarter can come up with a win. But this isn’t the first time this has happened this season: The Hawks overcame a 27-point deficit to beat the Celtics earlier this season (in 2OT) on January 25. The Bucks overcame a 27-point deficit to beat the Bulls earlier this season on November 26.
Someone simply hit a switch. The Heat scored 145.7 points per 100 possessions in the second half, which isn’t even their highest offensive efficiency this season, good enough for “only” third. They suddenly ate up the offensive glass, grabbing 50% of their missed shots (James finished with 7 offensive rebounds, 11 for the whole team) and scored 16 of its 19 second-chance points after halftime against the Cavaliers. The Heat needed eight minutes and 37 seconds of basketball to erase the 27 point deficit, going on a 37-10 run through that time span, going level with the Cavs with 10:26 remaining in 4th quarter.
James himself saved his best for the fourth quarter: He had 14 points, 7 rebounds, three assists (for 8 points) and two steals in the final period of the game, not letting the fan who stormed the court in the beginning of the 4th, asking him to return to Cleveland in 2014, bother him too much, or not for the entire game.
It’s amazing to see just how confident the Heat are in their ability, coming out of a double digit hole for the second consecutive game to pull of a big win, adding to an even bigger streak. It might not be their main goal for this season, but they’re not planning on giving up on it.